September 29, 2016

English film festival gives movies feminist ‘F’ ratings

An “F” at the Bath Film Festival, is a good thing. Films that get an “F” prominently feature women either in front of or behind the screen.

The criteria is fairly general, festival producer Holly Tarquini tellsEW. ”We haven’t been emphatic about it, so it is broadly films that are made by or have significant actors who are women or are specifically about women’s issues, I suppose, for want of a better word,” she says.  In an announcement on the festival’s site, Tarquini described the rating as a “fun way to high light films which pass some simple tests such as having a female lead who is not simply there to support the male lead, being specifically about women or being directed by a woman.” Films at the festival that have received this rating include the Reese Witherspoon-starring Wild, the Kelly Reichardt-directed Night Moves, and Arrietty, Studio Ghibli’s take on The Borrowers.

The impetus for the idea came from the fact that four Swedish theaters had decided to rate movies based on whether they passed the Bechdel test. But Tarquini saw the Bechdel test’s reach as too limited in its reach. “When we looked at the Bechdel test we thought, well, it doesn’t cover enough and it’s only about what’s going on on screen,” Tarquini said. “Alison Bechdel did it as a cartoon. It was never intended as a serious test or to examine films for whether they in any way buck the trend of the inequality in the film industry. We just wanted to make it clearer that that’s what it was about and that it was looking at women on screen and off screen.”

The Bechdel test evaluates movies based on whether they have two female characters who have a conversation with one another about something other than a man. As Lindsey Bahr wrote in EW upon news of the Swedish rating system, the test, while a good jumping off point, is “hardly enough to give a definitive answer on the feminist qualities of any particular movie.” In an interview with The Independent  Tarquini highlighted that the Bechdel test can eliminate movies that have “amazingly strong female protagonists” like Gravity.

The “F” rating is a chance to address the extent to which women are underrepresented in the film business. “Predominantly it’s to encourage debate around why the industry seems so unbalanced in favor men,” Tarquini said. The Bath Film Festival begins Nov. 13.

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